As a Hypnotherapist you are dealing with trauma most of the time whether you realize it or not. It’s just that trauma is not what most people think. That’s because there’s Big-T Trauma. And there’s little-t trauma.
Much of the work we do as healing practitioners falls under the little trauma label.
The basic problem is that the Child was too young to make sense of what was happening. And interpreted the situation erroneously.
What was happening was too much for the Child to make sense of. They felt confused. Or scared. That’s because there was something in the situation that was perceived as threatening.
According to trauma expert, Dr. Robert Scaer, trauma is the result of any situation that was perceived as a threat to a person’s well-being or survival. AND in which the person felt defenseless, or unable to control the situation.
That covers a lot of events in childhood.
The younger a child is the more helpless they are. So, the more likelihood for trauma to occur.
To the adult mind events that are traumatic to the Child can seem silly or illogical. But to a Child any situation that involves feelings of being unsafe or unprotected automatically brings in old-brain responses.
Any situation can qualify as trauma if the Child was:
Trauma is about survival.
Not fitting in is a survival threat because members of the tribe who don’t fit in can be cast out. Rejection is a perceived threat to survival because a Child cannot survive on its own.
Any situation that causes the Child to feel confused is a threat to survival. If the Child can’t figure out how things work it doesn’t know how to respond to take care of itself.
A Child who is put on a feeding schedule can develop a starvation conflict. Biologically the inability to get food when you’re hungry means you’ll die.
Abandonment and neglect are life threatening because human beings need to connect to primary caregivers to survive. And the Child lacks the ability to take care of itself.
Trauma is classic fear conditioning.
That’s old brain. It doesn’t involve thinking. It’s just stimulus-response.
Any perception of threat makes an impression on the brain. The brain then sends a signal throughout the nervous system of the body. The body then stores the information for future reference as part of our survival programming.
The traumatic event isn’t the problem, however. The problem is that the event hasn’t been resolved. So as far as the Subconscious Mind is concerned it’s not over yet. The person was “kindled” by the event.
In hypnotherapy we call it “sensitized.”
The Initial Sensitizing Event is the “kindling” event. Similar events then act as reminders. And can re-stimulate the memory of the original trauma.
But it’s much worse than that ....
The Subconscious Mind continues to ruminate in an attempt to find resolution. That’s the conflict. The Subconscious Mind cannot find a solution because it’s stuck at the age at which the event occurred. It only has the reason and logic of the Child at that age.
Ruminating on the problem just compounds the problem. So, the energy gets stronger over time.
It’s like putting more wood on the first. Eventually it all comes to a head. So either something happens in the client’s life, or the energy just reaches a sort of “critical mass” over time.
Either way, the build-up of unresolved psychological material “ignites.” That’s when the client shows up in your office with symptoms – physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Symptoms are not the problem.
The problem is a Story that may or may not be factually true.
Remember – trauma is defined as any situation that was perceived as a threat to well-being or survival. AND in which the person felt helpless, defenseless, or unable to control the situation.
It’s about perception. Not truth.
The perception of helplessness may be true. All children are helpless to some degree because they are dependent on others for their care and well-being. And the perception of threat may have been accurate. But the threat to survival is NOT true because the client is still here.
Even when you’re dealing with the worst situation of abuse, this is the bottom line. The client survived. They’re alive sitting in your chair. So, the event is over. That’s the point to hammer home.
The problem is simply that the Subconscious Mind does not realize it’s over. So it doesn’t know more hurt isn’t on its way. You can change that.
Most of the time you’ll be dealing with the little-t variety of trauma. Much of that is rooted in misperceptions simply because the Child lacked the maturity needed to be able make sense of the situation.
Regardless. It doesn’t matter what happened. No matter how bad it might have been – it’s over. They survived. End of Story.
Big-T Trauma is Big Stuff.
“Big T” Trauma is what most people would consider traumatic. BIG stuff like car accidents, rape, violence, and war.
Big T trauma is a crisis. A one-time event that caused the person to become hyper-sensitive to certain triggers. These are intense situations that can result in Post-Traumatic Stress.
Little t trauma is more common.
Imagine of a see-saw on a playground. A teeter-totter. The Conscious Mind is seated on one side. And on the other side there’s the Subconscious Mind.
All the unresolved feelings of Childhood can easily outweigh Adult reason and logic. So the client continues to feel overwhelmed and out of control. Even as an adult.
All children are helpless. And they don’t have the cognitive development to make sense of the world around them. So everybody has experienced some degree of trauma in Childhood.
“Little t” trauma can “kindle” a person to experience “Big T” trauma later in life.
Dr. Robert Scaer is the author of The Body Bears the Burden and Trauma Spectrum. He states that “little t” trauma can “kindle” a person to experience “Big T” trauma later in life.
I highly recommend these books. Trauma Spectrum speaks to the traumatizing effects of medical treatment. If you have clients who have undergone medical procedures, especially in childhood, you’ll likely find sources of trauma.
The Body Bears the Burden shows how unprocessed traumatic events become somatized.
Scaer discovered that patients who had lingering symptoms which should have resolved in a matter of weeks (e.g. whiplash, crushed vertebrae) had been “kindled” by childhood trauma. Often abuse.
This is why some people can walk away from a car crash relatively unscathed. While others suffer miserably for years. It has to do with the effects of kindling/sensitization.
The root of the problem can be something as simple as confusion. In fact, confusion can be a sign you have located the Initial Sensitizing Event (ISE). That’s because the younger the Child is the more likely their first response to the situation will be confusion. Fear then follows.
Whether you’re dealing with “Big-T” trauma or “Little- t” trauma it’s still just a Story. So think of the event in these terms.
The Story always begins with the Child feeling okay.
In the beginning the body is in a normal state. It’s cycling through the Basic Rest and Activity Cycles (BRAC). Then something unexpected happens to disturb the body-mind’s natural ebb and flow.
The perception of threat sends the nervous system into a state of alert. Stress hormones are released in readiness for fight or flight.
The Initial Sensitizing Event (ISE) is the first time this happened. It sensitized the Child to this pattern.
The perception of threat sent a ZZZT! through the energy of system of the body. That’s a stress response.
The perception doesn’t have to be real to generate a stress response. The Subconscious Mind doesn’t make a distinction between real and imagined. Merely the perception of threat will elicit this response.
That’s the beginning of the Story.
The middle of the Story is the actual period of conflict.
This is where the Story plays out with all the details involve feeling scared and powerless. The Child feels helpless or unable to control what’s happening. And the specific meaning the Child assigns to what’s happening gets connected to all the physical sensations and emotional responses and all the perceptions in that moment.
The Subconscious Mind generalizes all learning. So experiences that get reinforced in life become the client’s Life Story. The Story is all about who they are. i.e. identity. And what they can expect from others and life.
The end of the story is the outcome.
When the threat finally passes the body can relax. And the body-mind naturally restores balance. This shifts it into “healing phase”.
This is when the energy of the trauma is automatically released. Or, at least it should be. But when the end doesn’t come, this natural releasing doesn't occur.
Obviously the client survived. But when the energy of the event doesn’t get released the client’s Subconscious Mind doesn’t know it’s over.
This is what we find in regression sessions. The Story hasn’t been resolved. So it’s all happening still.
The body goes on high alert for good reason.
But then it stays there because the threat is still perceived to be present. So the Subconscious Mind doesn’t know if more pain is on its way.
Worse, the Subconscious Mind must find solutions to problems. So it gets stuck ruminating in an attempt to finally make sense of things. But it can’t. Because it only has the resource of the Child at the age at which the event occurred.
This sets up an unconscious pattern of compounding. So even though the client has no conscious awareness of this the energy is getting stronger over time. And often it’s all happening below the threshold of conscious awareness.
Problems can build up underground over long periods of time. When they finally erupt into consciousness it can come as a shock to the client.
That’s how phobias often appear. They can seem to come on suddenly. And out of nowhere. But there’s no reason for the feeling so the person feels out of control.
What’s happening is the fear has finally surfaced into conscious awareness. But the feeling isn’t the problem. The feeling is pointing to something that happened that’s still calling for resolution.
What happened isn't the problem.
The problem is that the Subconscious Mind doesn’t know it’s over. So it’s still stuck in the event in the past. And still trying to find a way to resolve the conflict.
The Subconscious Mind doesn’t know that it's over. So it can’t relax. Putting an end to the Story allows the mind and body to finally relax, allowing healing to happen.
Regression hypnotherapy isn't about change the Past. We don’t even change the Story. We just help the client to give the Story new meaning. The goal is to come up with a better ending.
One that says, “We all lived happily ever after.”